(30 Things To Stop Spending Time On If You Want to Be Successful #17)
“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.”
— Alyce P. Cornyn Selby
Standing in the middle of a busy highway and knocking yourself over with your own car. Wanting to lose unnecessary weight but heading straight to the store for donuts and cupcakes each day after work. Trying to reach a goal or dream but shooting yourself in the foot. Cutting wordiness from a research paper and then putting every single word back in there and calling it ‘editing’.
Setting your alarm so you can be on time for work but hitting the snooze button repeatedly when it goes off. Failing a test and then not spending extra time needed to study so you can do better the next time. Being in perfectly good relationships but ruining them with dishonest, disrespectful, manipulating, and controlling behavior.
Spending precious hours on Facebook or Twitter even though you’re crazy tired and have to go to work/school in the morning. Talking about a project that needs to be completed and then feeling bad when you didn’t set aside the time to get it done. Lying to yourself about the money or lack thereof in your bank account and then doing retail therapy on credit. Faking you’re okay instead of admitting you’re not and asking for help.
These are simple yet very real ways we practice self-sabotage every single day. And too often, we don’t even realize it. We wonder why this project didn’t work, or why we didn’t follow through on this idea, or why we aren’t thriving in this relationship. Usually, the reason is because we are doing something to prevent our own success.
Unconscious behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and attitudes — which is what most self sabotage is — hinders us far more than conscious ones. Very simply, self sabotage is saying we want something but doing everything we can to not get it. It is looking forward but walking backward. And sometimes we don’t even know or hear what we’re saying or realize what we’re thinking. When we aren’t aware, we confirm negative thoughts about ourselves and our abilities.
Self sabotage is the result of feeling or thinking we don’t deserve to achieve our goals, realize our dreams, or get good results from our efforts. So we find a way to destroy our work. Psychologist Robert Firestone calls this inner voice, the “critical inner voice”. Again, this can be conscious or unconscious. The key to overcoming self sabotage is being aware of what you’re doing, the thoughts you’re having, the behavior you’re displaying and analyzing whether it is helping you or hurting you.
You can’t stop something unless you know it is there and needs to end. You can’t implement a solution unless you know there is a problem. Being willing to acknowledge when you are being your own obstacle, your own Mount Everest, your own negative mouth replaying like a broken record in your head is the first step to actually tackling this problem of self sabotage. And it is really deceptive. It will tell you things and make you feel things that you really shouldn’t be told or feeling especially when you have a goal to reach.
Once you are able to pinpoint where your behavior or cognitive process is causing you major problems, you can’t make any more excuses. You can’t talk yourself under the bed or into the closet. You can’t pretend there isn’t a problem. You also can’t really depend on the cavalry to come and rescue you. When it comes to overcoming self sabotage, you will need to make the decision that, ’self, you know what, this is getting too stressful and too pathetic of a way to live; it’s not working; I’m going to turn this ship all the way around.’
There. Right there. At that very moment. You’ve made the ultimate decision to start changing those negative behaviors and thoughts that drive you to destroy your own efforts.
And here’s another thing you need to understand. If you’re normal in any way, you will experience self sabotaging thoughts in one form or another at certain periods throughout your life. It’s a normal part of being human that combines activities in our nervous system and cognition. It doesn’t matter how great you are as a person, how many accomplishments you have, or how spiritual you may be either.
If you make the decision to pursue any goal at any given time, you can be assured that you will be met with some external and internal resistance. You can’t always control external forces but you can control internal forces. You can tell the fear of not being good enough that you are as good as you want to be. You can tell the fear of failure that you might fail but you will get back up. You can tell the fear of success that you want it badly but when you get it you won’t let it get to your head.
This is what you must do and what you have to do. You have to make these thoughts and feelings powerless. To make them powerless, you have to take their control away because they won’t give it up easily. That control can be in many forms. Feeling unworthy, bad habits, the need for excitement, the worst case scenario view, the need to control, and fear of failure are just a few.
Forget about justifying your behavior, why you didn’t think a certain way, why you did act a certain way and so on and so on. Observe your own behavior. The saying “don’t listen to people’s words, watch their actions” applies to you too. Consciously imagine yourself and observe what you’re doing and the ways in which you are thinking. Seeing your own behavior can help you to confront areas of your life that need objective changes.
Observing your own behavior and thought processes has nothing to do with self-blame or being perfect. We cannot change the past but we can choose how the past influences us today. We can consciously choose to act against every self sabotaging thought that we’ve internalized and not fall victim to that “critical inner voice”.
Another problem that is a result of self sabotage is getting everything you want and then losing it through stupidity. You’ve heard of the rich athlete or the wealthy businessman who gets all the money one could ever ask for then squanders it on gambling, exotic vacations, and unwise investments. Well, some not so wealthy people do the exact same thing every day. We achieve something great and then we throw it all away either because we fear its continued success or we don’t feel we deserve it.
Take a moment to list these achievements. Let yourself hear your inner voice tell you what each accomplishment meant to you. Don’t pass judgment on yourself for doing this is self-defeating. Pay attention to how what you achieved made you feel, whether it brought satisfaction or a sense of meaning and significance. Identify your feelings when you had what you wanted and now that you don’t. Then create small points of action that you can take to get back what you had.
You can’t create your own hell and then get upset when it starts to burn. Be the conscious force behind your thoughts and actions so that you can develop that inner stability you need to make progress in an outwardly harsh and critical world. If you put yourself out there, you’re going to get enough people standing in your way. Don’t add yourself to the crowd.
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
— Elizabeth Gilbert